Surf Ohio Presents Second Annual Festiki
While attending Whetstone High School in Columbus, Ohio during the mid-1970s, Ron Kaplan started a joke. His first creation was a bootleg T-shirt he designed for an upcoming Beach Boys concert that had the cryptic message “Surf the Olentangy” incorporated into its monochromatic design. From there, he designed what would become a cultural cult classic: the Surf Ohio T-Shirt. It was a simple logo with a posterized surfer dude catching a wave, but it really encompasses the unrealistic imaginary world that many of us yearn to live in, a world of a never-ending beach as the sun warms the sand, a world where tikis keep watch over us and protect us — a far cry from that evil little tiki depicted in a classic Brady Bunch episode — a world where statements are made not with loud voices, but loud Hawaiian shirts, and the wo-
men glide across the sand in grass skirts and sarongs, drifting
in the cascading rhy-thms and jangling guitar chords of retro-surf and exotica music.
always sunset in this world, with the rigors of the day washing away with every perfect wave that laps at the shore. This is the world of Festiki, which will be celebrated Saturday, August 14 at Old River
Festiki is the brainchild of Ron Kaplan, founder and creator of the Surf Ohio brand. On the whole, Festiki is easier to experience than explain. Festiki is a conglomeration of cultures, taking in such diverse sub genres as the tiki culture, the hot rod and rat rod fanatics, the surfer set, and the pin-up girls not to mention the burlesque and vaudevillian vanguard. All of these cultures are set to Polynesian inspired exotica rhythms and coupling that with the raucous roar of rockabilly and the swinging sounds of surf music. Festiki is, in a nutshell, a Shangri-La for the senses and
Kaplan recently spoke with DCP and addressed how the concept of Festiki came
“I really kind of created it intuitively…the event almost channeled itself through me,” he said. “Like a lot of big ideas, it’s a lot of small ideas that over time come together. The learning curve was steep, but the payoff was worth the small amount of pain that it took to get the first one going. Given the number of meetings I had with potential sponsors, so many of them looked at me like I was kind of nuts. I thought, ‘Gee, is that going to the public’s perception too?’”
Kaplan also revealed he was pleasantly surprised by last year’s attendance
“I think people got it, and that’s why they came out in droves. The other thing was just seeing it all unfolding and everybody just having a great time…that was really heartening. I knew then that I absolutely was going to do another one. What surprises me is that people came up to my tent last year. I guess I just never thought it through about whom I would actually run into at this event. People that I have dealt with in business for 15 years in a suit and tie are now coming up to my table in an aloha shirt and a Billabong hat, with both of us
going, ‘I didn’t know you were into this!’”
With other festivals seemingly in existence only as a mecca for merchandising, Festiki’s approach adopts a leisurely lifestyle. Even vendors are more apt to teach about their products to sell. You will not find a corridor of booths and trailers filled with a jostling crowd trying to buy a respite from their lifestyle. We get enough of that kind of pressure in our day-to-day life with its hectic barrage of technological stresses and incessant marketing.
“We forgot what the word leisure means and that’s a shame and is not healthy at all.” Kaplan said. “Just as it is important to exercise and get out into the great outdoors and do activities, whether it’s kayaking or mountain biking or wake surfing, it’s also just as important to kick back and contemplate and savor and enjoy nature.”
Kaplan also discussed what was in store for festival-goers this year.
“There’s going to be seven bands and the fire dancers and we’re going to have the giant sand sculptor, Ted Siebert, who has won awards all over the world for his sand sculptures. We try to make it a totally immersive experience. For $10, you can escape and go to another world of your choice that conjures up the
images of the good times at the beach with the swaying palm trees…that oddly enough look something like oak trees…but on August 14, they will be palm trees as real as you can imagine them to be.”
After having a fit that I suggested bringing all the neon palm trees from Trader’s World, Kaplan went on to detail some of the other aspects of the festival including admission fees.
“I wanted to keep the price manageable so I set the (adult) price at $10 and I think that’s a real good price. We think that is really reasonable given what you’re going to see and hear at the event. We’ve got great food again this year, and more of it. We’ve got more activities for the kids. With the move to Old River Park, Carillon Park has the boat rentals running, (and) we’ve got the putt-putt golf course, which the Fraternal Order of Moai will have given kind of a tiki theme.”
There seems to be a groundswell of events and groups that are looking back towards a simpler time. There are groups reviving the old pin-up hairstyles and attire. There is a huge resurgence of rockabilly groups, surfer bands and lounge singers popping up everywhere. Kaplan addressed whether all of this is a useful (and some would say needed) self-delusion to cope with the times we are in by recreating another era in our minds.
“Everybody has their own memories or perceptions and, hey, if we didn’t all have rose-colored glasses, we’d all be kind of screwed. I look back at growing up in Wilmette, Illinois in the early 1960s and my older brothers were in their early teens and were playing their 45s and so I was absorbing all of that as a little 6-year-old: Dick Dale, The Ventures, the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, and then the Beatles came. I remember that vividly, just as I remember the split window Corvette going down the street and it was cherry red with the chrome spinners and I remember thinking, ‘Those cars are just the coolest!’ Now, I’d love to own one!” Now, here’s Festiki and there’s a whole new generation that is just really geeked on discovering, say, a vintage style of guitar music that’s being kept alive by bands and musicians like Nick Kizirnis, the Space Cossacks and the Madeira, and people are kind of discovering this for the first time.”
With an entertainment roster that is as excellent as it is eclectic and a wide
array of vendors, activities and communal sharing, Festiki is in a class all its own. Kaplan succinctly put into words the personification of what Festiki represents.
“Festiki is the place to come and to just immerse yourself in that leisurely lifestyle. Whether you’re into active sports or whether you’re looking at it from an outdoor leisure activity aspect, Festiki offers it all. That’s one of the reasons we call it the ultimate staycation alternative, because you can transport yourself to another time or another place or you can just experience the fun of the ‘now.’ A lot of people enjoy the nostalgia, especially going back into the ‘60s with the Polynesian nightclub culture, the music and the apparel and then, of course, that’s not a far leap to the automobiles with our hot rod show. For $10, Festiki offers an escape and you don’t even have to
The 2nd annual Festiki will be held Saturday, August 14 from 2 to 10 p.m. at the historic Old River Park, located on River Road, which can be accessed from 1611 S. Main St. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for kids ages 10-17. Children 9 and younger are admitted free. A portion of the proceeds goes to the Surfrider Foundation for education in surfing activities and to keep the coastal areas pristine. Festiki is a production created by Surf Ohio and the Fraternal Order of the Moai. For a list of performers or additional information, visit www.FraternalOrderofMoai.org/festiki/
Reach DCP freelance writer J.T. Ryder at email@example.com